A $450,000 St. Armands Circle median enhancement project will begin soon, but isn’t expected to create any traffic problems for motorists.
The St. Armands Capital Improvement Project officially began July 1; physical work is expected as soon as the contractor receives official notice from the city to proceed.
Sarasota-based contractor John F. Swift Inc. is currently receiving permits from the city to begin the work.
The project will install sidewalks along the Circle’s four medians, allowing motorists to exit there and walk down the center of the median to the pedestrian crosswalks near the center of the Circle. This feature is expected to address concerns expressed at traffic workshops about pedestrians exiting their vehicles and jaywalking, which could create potential hazards.
It’s now expected that two medians will be complete before Thanksgiving and two medians will be complete before Christmas.
“All the medians are being uprooted and refurbished,” said St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District Chairman Marty Rappaport. “The medians themselves will have new benches and new landscaping that includes shade trees.”
The medians of each quadrant will also have a different theme.
Overall, the project is aimed at enhancing the appearance of the district while improving safety.
The $450,000 project is being performed through a partnership between the city of Sarasota and the St. Armands Business Improvement District (BID).
Approximately $50,000 came from BID funds and the city came up with the rest of the funds.
“This project is being staged in such a way it will not affect the Circle,” Rappaport said.
Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, expressed optimism about the planned project.
“Both for beauty and for safety, it’s going to be a fabulous thing,” she said.
Once it’s complete, Rappaport said the Circle would have one last stage left for its capital improvement project.
“The next stage is landscaping for the Circle, removing the exposed power lines and building a multi-story parking garage,” Rappaport said.
The city’s master parking plan, Rappaport says, has a shortage of more than 1,000 parking spaces during season.
That last step could take years to complete, Rappaport said, and depends upon when city funds are earmarked toward a garage that could be built near the Circle’s fire station.
“Once it’s all done, it will satisfy all the Circle’s stakeholders and residents and vault the Circle from a top-five destination shopping center to the No. 1 destination shopping center,” he said.
Rappaport said the Circle has already fielded calls from other destination shopping centers in Scottsdale, Ariz., Aspen, Colo., and West Palm Beach.
“All of them are asking us how to bid improvement projects and how to create the projects we are undertaking,” Rappaport said. “That tells us we are making tremendous progress and are heading in the right direction.”
A St. Armands Circle median project contains the following components:
• Refurbishment of medians
• Sidewalk installation for safer pedestrian crossing
• New benches
• New landscaping with shade trees
• A different theme for each median